AFC Notes: Bengals, Browns, Ravens, Steelers


Bengals director of player personnel Duke Tobin praised HC Zac Taylor‘s relationship with the players.

“He’s got a very flexible and bright mind, and I think he relates well to the players,” Tobin said, via The Athletic’s Paul Dehner Jr. “And I think his relationship to Joe is front and center on that. That’s what you have to have. You have to have the ability to be flexible and forward-thinking. I’ve seen that in him.”

Taylor mentioned he is more comfortable as head coach entering year three.

“Every year that passes you feel better about the players around the league and who you want to add and who’s the right fit for you,” Taylor said. “So certainly in Year 3 you feel that way. I think every year is going to feel that way a little more and more. We’ve got great relationships with these guys in the locker room. You feel like you really know them well, on and off the field at this point and what makes them tick and how to talk to them and how to coach them and what helps them reach their potential. It’s a really good locker room. I’m really happy with it. It’s all on paper. We’ve got to go out there on the field and prove it, but I like our starting point.”

Owner Mike Brown understands why the fanbase has become impatient, but maintains it will be worth it in the end.

“My hope is the same as his hope, which is to have a winning team. And we all have the same goal, which is to have a Super Bowl-winning team,” Brown said. “We know how hard that is. We have yet to manage that, and we’ve been trying for a long while. So for him, he’s aware of all this that we’re talking about now, obviously, and he’s got this opportunity. It’s critical to him and us both. I really feel good about our chances. But I’m fully aware that you have to go out on the field and prove it. You can’t just talk about it.”


Browns’ WR Odell Beckham says that “everything feels great” and that he is “very, very excited to be back” as he completes his rehab from the season-ending injury he sustained in 2020.

“I did want to have the fastest comeback ever and all these things but then I’m like, what accolade is that really?” Beckham said, via Mary Kay Cabot of “I want to be able to have the best season I can possibly have. That’s why I say we’re just running our race and whenever the time is, I will be ready.”

  • ESPN’s Field Yates reports Beckham received a $1 million roster bonus for reporting to training camp.
  • According to NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport, Beckham passed his physical and will avoid starting the season on the PUP list.


  • ESPN’s Jamison Hensley reports TE Nick Boyle will miss some of the preseason after having knee surgery.
  • The Athletic’s Jeff Zrebiec believes the Ravens will try to find a way to keep three quarterbacks on the active roster and hold on to both Tyler Huntley and Trace McSorley, although that will make for more of a crunch at other positions. 
  • Zrebiec writes the Ravens have seven receivers they can make a good case for keeping but it’s hard to make a case for keeping seven receivers on the league’s run-heaviest offense. He adds it makes sense to see if they can flip Miles Boykin for a pick even though he’s their best blocker at the position. Injuries could also clarify the pecking order during camp. 
  • While the Ravens spent a fifth-round pick on FB Ben Mason, Zrebiec notes it’s hard to justify carrying a backup fullback unless Mason can be a better third tight end than someone like Josh Oliver
  • Zrebiec mentions Ravens G Ben Powers has a legitimate chance to win a starting job, which gives him a leg up over G Ben Bredeson. He adds Baltimore will likely give priority to younger players over veterans like OT Andre Smith, OL Michael Schofield and C Greg Mancz
  • The Ravens should have a battle between Justin Ellis and Aaron Crawford for the backup nose tackle job that could go either way, per Zrebiec. 
  • While the Ravens look exceptionally deep at corner, Zrebiec points out there are always injuries and that could clear the way for them to keep someone like Khalil Dorsey


Coming off elbow surgery last year, Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger insisted he felt great and team staffers even remarked his arm looked stronger than ever. But as the regular season progressed, it was apparent something was wrong, as Roethlisberger didn’t have the same deep ball and wore down toward the end of the year. Heading into 2021, Roethlisberger is singing the same tune he did last season, now it remains to be seen if he’s right. 

“I feel great,” he said via Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer. “You go two years ago, only playing a couple games, having elbow surgery, last year’s your first year back from a major surgery. I think if you ask anybody that’s had a major surgery, their first year back, no matter how far removed from it, it’s always a re-figure out, and getting to a comfort level with that part of your body. For me to feel more back to normal, I’m excited for that.

“It’s always interesting, because when asked last year how I felt, I would tell you I felt great. But then, one year removed, I look back on it, and I’m like, Man, maybe I wasn’t as good as I feel now.”

In his MAQB article, Breer asked Roethlisberger if he has a timetable for how much longer he plans to play in the NFL.

I don’t,” Roethlisberger answered. “I always take it one year at a time. What’s most important, I want to give everything I have to this season, because this is the most important season I have.

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